Another Bin Laden Death Rumor

UPDATE: It looks like the bin Laden death rumor was false, not that such a thing is much a surprise…

I’ve been following some interesting developments in the global war on terrorism over the past few days, which may (or more likely may not) be related to some major new developments. This is all rampant speculation, so take this all with a grain of salt.

First of all, we all know about the near capture of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq which allowed US forces to grab Zarqawi’s laptop containing valuable intelligence on al-Qaeda operations. (And it’s been rumored that it also contained “a fair amount of porn” as well…) This laptop would obviously be a treasure trove of information, especially as Zarqawi was rumored to be in some form of direct contact with Osama bin Laden (probably through couriers since bin Laden can’t communicate electronically without detection).

Bin Laden is likely in the Pakistani province of North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan and is exceptionally mountainous and remote. Recently US warplanes have been rumored to have flown over North Waziristan. This rumor was denied, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s incorrect.

Adding further speculation were the rumors that the US was planning some kind of operation in the area of North Waziristan. Indeed, there’s some truth to these claims, since US forces have recently been in Pakistan to train Pakistani forces in advance of an assault on North Waziristan.

The timing of all this seems more than coincidental. We retrieved al-Zarqawi’s laptop in late February. That happened to coincide with several captures of top al-Zarqawi lieutenants in Iraq. The fact that this information has now leaked suggests that whatever intelligence we had from the laptop is no longer as sensitive as it once was.

If al-Zarqawi were in contact with bin Laden, that could have provided enough intelligence to make a guess about where he is. We wouldn’t be taking the risks of having our troops in Pakistan unless there was a really big fish involved — we didn’t get involved in the South Waziristan raids that netted a minor Uzbek warlord.

Adding to the mystery is this intreguing post at NRO in which there was rumors of some WoT news breaking yesterday the specific rumor didn’t pan out, but now Debka has this report:

An announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death appears Friday in one of his close aides’ most credible Web sites. It has sparked a storm of controversy in al Qaeda circles, some of whom claim notice is false.

Signed by the Pen of Jihad Warriors, the site provides no information on circumstances of death, only asks:

Where are those who break out of borders? Where are the lamenters? Where are those who throw themselves from the tops of towers and skyscrapers? Where are the heart-rending cries?

Egyptian bin Laden adherent, Yasser Sari, calls notice a lie and promises new videotape soon in which leader announces end of al Qaeda truce in Europe. Other followers credit the announcement as “authentic and Islamic.”

If bin Laden is dead, it could be connected to the recent activities in North Waziristan. All we have is a chain of semi-related events which may or may not be significant. It could be that the message of bin Laden’s death is a fake, the North Waziristan operations were just routine anti-terrorism operations with training provided by the US, and the connections with al-Zarqawi’s laptop may have nothing to do with bin Laden.

At the same time, there does appear to be something here. If it pans out, great, if not, the hunt for the terrorist mastermind is clearly continuing behind the fog of war.

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